‘Grease blobs’ cause sewers overflow

It wasn’t a horror movie scene; but this Foster Road sewer overflow could have turned tragic. See how workers kept the stinky effluence from pouring into Johnson Creek …

Had sewer workers not acted quickly, hundreds of gallons of raw sewage might have flowed over the curb, and into this stretch of Johnson Creek running through the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It first, there was a trickle of fluid, oozing out of sewer maintenance hole covers – commonly referred to as “manhole covers” – in the 11600 block of SE Foster Road, at about 8:30 a.m. on October 2.

Soon, raw sewage was bubbling up from the underground pipe and running downhill on Foster Road, and to the southwest – in fact, heading directly toward Johnson Creek, which closely parallels the thoroughfare in that area.

Earlier in the day, raw sewage was bubbling up through this manhole after “giant greasy globules” stopped up the pipe.

It was estimated that 1,000 gallons of sewage belched up and out of the sewer line, according to Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) Public Information Officer Diane Dulken.

While they awaited the arrival of their “Vactor 2000” sewer clean-out truck, “crews directed the flow to two street planters [bioswales] on either side of the road where it was contained, preventing further discharge to the street or nearby Johnson Creek. The creek was not affected,” Dulken told East Portland News.

Using a Vactor 2000 super-sucker rig, as seen in this archive photo, a crew sprays water into the sewer line, and then sucks out the grime.

Firing up a giant and powerful vacuum-cleaner-on-wheels, the crew used the Vactor 2000 to suck giant globs of gooey, grimy grease into its tank, allowing the effluent underground to again flow freely into the Lents Trunk Sewer line, and eventually into the huge “East Side Big Pipe” to the west, before heading north to the treatment plant.

Crews completed cleanup around 9:45 a.m. and posted warning signs around the bioswales.

“We do investigate the potential source of blocking materials, with the goal of preventing future problems,” Dulken said.

By directing sewage into this bioswale, alongside SE Foster Road, crews kept it from running into Johnson Creek.

Sewage overflows often are preventable. To protect public health, property and the environment, BES offers these tips:

Place grease in a container and then in the trash; don’t pour it down kitchen drains. Food establishments are required to take additional measures to prevent grease from entering sewer lines.

Avoid flushing rags or wipes or anything other than toilet paper and human waste – even if it says it is “flushable”.

Outside the home, avoid pouring anything down storm drains, which are intended for rainfall only.

“And again, kudos to the quick thinking and action of our responding crew, for directing the flow to the bioswales,” concluded Dulken.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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